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Recent Tasting Notes
Pulled out another tea from Dark Matter 2016 to try today. It’s nice to get back to some quality straight blacks, after all the heavily flavoured stuff I’ve been drinking recently, and these are some quality.
While brewing, the scent is strongly chocolate and malty. Like yesterday’s Pine Needle, though, the flavour is a little different. There are chocolate and malt notes, but the first thing I noticed, right up front, was a quite distinctive nuttiness – hazelnut, to be specific. After that there’s sweet, rich chocolate and even sweeter malt, with just a touch of honey. Like honey, it’s super-smooth – a great drinking experience.
This is another one I could drink happily all day, and I’ll probably take it through a few steeps before I call it quits. Teas like this remind me why blacks are generally my favourite.
I got this as a one time thing I’ve been meaning to try for a long time. If would probably visit this tea house because of its glowing reviews online, but J-Tea’s website is lacking the care. I got my order labeled Dylon instead of my actual name which was clearly spelled out on the computer order. It came by quickly than the last one without tracking…never mind the email of the package says I can track it when I could not. So if you buy J-Tea International, expect good tea, high prices, and customer service that I do not applaud.
So the tea. The tea is arguably overpriced in some ways. However, LP was impressed enough to want his own 4 oz serving, and I am glad that I only paid for the two, with one oz of this and the other the darker Drunken Dragon. Oolong can also be expensive. Bourbon Barrels are expensive, and scenting tea takes time. Gaining profit in tea is also difficult.
The tradeoff? A combo that surprisingly works naturally. Sweet Bourbon whiskey in aroma and taste amidst a refreshing green oolong. The tea was also fairly easy to play with working Western at 2-3 minutes or Gong Fu starting with 15 sec with A LOT of leaves. I’m not sure if citric is the right way to describe the aftertaste as I get that more from the Bourbon than the oolong, but the oolong was floral and on the sweeter side. It reminded me more of a Four Seasons in terms of its florals and smooth texture, but don’t rely on my judgement for that. It is a scented tea after all.
This was a one time thing for an almost great tea. I may do business with J-Tea again if something amazing comes up, but that may be a long time away. I’d rate the taste a 90, but I’m not sure if its worth the same price again.
I had a perfect sample size of this tea, so I grabbed my gaiwan and brewed away. The dry leaf is dark black and slightly curled with aromas of malt, dark coco, black cherry, and grapeskin. I warmed my gaiwan up and scooped a bit inside. The scent opens up into a familiar red tea scent of burnt sugar, resin, char, and molasses. I washed the leaves once an prepared for brewing. The taste is sweet and woody with dark fruits, sugars, dark wood, and some resins in the background. The brew drops down significantly with each steep and becomes a very dry wood with some heavier malt. All in all, the first steep is good, but the next are average. This is a one and done kinda tea.
Flavors: Black Currant, Burnt Sugar, Dark Wood, Drying, Red Fruits, Resin, Sweet, Wood
The dry leaf of this tea doesn’t do much for me, but then again, it’s been sitting in a tin with a bunch of other samples. Thanks, by the way, to the tea friend who sent me this to try!
The wet leaf…I’m going to just stop smelling the wet leaf from now on, since it doesn’t really have much to do with the flavors of the tea. It kind of smells like Vienna sausages and flowers, one of the more odd combinations I have come across.
But the brew is where it’s at! It’s very thick and buttery, as described before. As you probably know by now, I never really get fruit from a tea unless it’s the dominant flavor. So I’m not getting the fruit that daylon mentioned. I’m getting butter and a mid-level floral of some kind that reminds me a bit of duck shit oolong. I’m also getting a bit of astringency.
My favorite part is the spice out the nose…nutmeg? Cinnamon? Something a little Christmasy that reminds me of a Taiwanese oolong. So is this an oolong green?
Really excited for this tea, I was.
Unfortunately, my spoiled taste buds and refined palate for aged oolong had me finding the faults in this tea so it wasn’t as enjoyable. There is a little storage issue in this as I can tell that at some point moisture was around this tea, but it had dried out over time. Not reroasted, but there is no touch of any nuttiness in this tea. The liquid looked great, but the taste and aroma (when brewed) were quite off for what it should have been. This tea did have quite a few stems and less buds/leaf than normal, but the ongoing argument regarding stems and sweetness of roasted teas is still debatable so the stems is probably intentional rather than low quality.
This tea was enjoyable and others liked it, but for myself I couldn’t justify storing more of this at all because it lacked character and mentionable aspects to set it aside in my collection like an aged oriental beauty or an aged muzha might have.
From the 2016 Sheng Olympiad.
I have a new year’s resolution that I’m trying to start early. In order to drink up all my samples, I’m going to sit down and have a formal session, with tasting notes and Steepster entry every single day. Lately I’ve been just grabbing something to drink while I work or watch TV so don’t really focus on the tea. Since I’m not paying enough attention to the tea, I tend to drink average-quality teas that I own a lot of, and leave the samples alone (all ~200!). So, let’s see how long it takes me to drink down all my samples – longer than I think: I have samples on the way from Farmer-Leaf teas, and intend to order the 2017 Sheng Olympiad (and probably everything else the Liquid Proust puts together).
So, after this long introduction, what about the tea? My first sip was very bitter. Usually I don’t like bitter tea, but this was also deep and rich with overtones of tar and fruit that I found enjoyable. The second steep lost some of the fruit, though it was still there.A short steep didn’t reduce the bitterness, so I decided to embrace it: think of this as the espresso of teas!.
Around the 5th steep, sweetness began to challenge the bitterness for dominance, but the finish stayed bitter. The interesting flavors faded along with the bitterness. An interesting tea, but not one I would purchase.
A Dark Matter tea! Pulled this one out of my sample bag and decided to give it a go today. This is a really nice hong. The dry leaf smelled of chocolate and malt. After being bathed, they got a bit of a grapey note as well.
The first few steeps had notes of honey and malt. I think I ramped up my steep times a bit too quickly, as the tea soon got a little bit rough and drying. After that passed (about 4 steeps in) the tea became very smooth and drinkable, with the same honey and malt tastes, though the malt became more prominent, along with a slightly fruity aftertaste, more blackberry than grape. Maybe like really dark grape jam but I’d say blackberry over grape. Around the 7th steep, the fruitiness started to drop off, and I started tasting mostly malt with a slight salted-chocolate note to it as well. In the final steeps, I got a light woody note which I often seem to get from steeped out black tea. This was a tasty black tea for sure – not really heavy on the chocolate or the fruity, rather it is nicely balanced.
Flavors: Blackberry, Chocolate, Fruity, Honey, Malt
From Dark Matter. Delicious. Someone said that it reminds them of a black version of red Buffalo. I agree. Super smooth, dark chocolate hot chocolate flavor, nice body. I just looked on JTea’s website. It’s $54 for 4 ounces… Well it was good drinking it once, but if I were a rich man, I’d love to make it my everyday.
I pulled this out of LiquidProusts’ tea sample box, whacked the whole sample (13g) in my 100ml teapot and began with a 10 second steep. The first steep already has me feeling all tingly and nice inside. I don’t think I’ve had a tea that has had this effect on me before (I’ve read about body feel, but don’t think I’ve experienced it).
As far as taste, damp wood, mild camphor (mainly in the aroma, but mildly in the taste also), and very slightly astringent (not the horrible liver stripping mouth inverting astringency of some of the other samples I’ve tried so far!). I would say this is probably my favourite pu-erh so far (out of not many), one that I’m all like ooooooooh more please!
Still not wuyi yancha levels of delicious awesomeness, but you never know maybe I’ll catch the pu bug yet.
Tastes pleasantly of an oaky bourbon barrel and toasty/roasted oolong. What it reminds me most of is the 30-year aged Tieguanyin from Verdant — among my favorite teas. This one is not quite at that level, although I’m still working out the steeping time and temp, given that J-Tea’s site provides zero guidance.
Flavors: Oak wood, Roasted
I was pretty excited to try this tea, considering it was awarded two plum flowers in Lugu. It’s pretty ho-hum though. The first steep is a little funky and not so pleasant; perhaps I should have washed it. The second steep was better: grains, some milkiness, and earthiness. It didn’t taste as “alive” as some others I’ve been enjoying recently. An ok Dong Ding.
Flavors: Earth, Grain, Milk
The dry leaves smell like compost to me. I also smell wood chips, mushrooms, minerals, frozen soil, and dried manure. Hopefully the brewed leaves are better.
Steeped 5 minutes and it tasted like slightly salty stale water. Decided to dump this and consider it a rinse.
Steep 1: ~5 minutes (tasted at 3 minutes and it wasn’t very flavourful), boiling water
The liquid smells like compost, moldy fruit, and soil. It reminds me a lot of a brown paper bag that has been left too damp for a few days and starts to grow mold. The brew is a medium orange colour and the leaves have expanded to more than twice their original size. Had to dump this out because I couldn’t drink it. The mold taste was too gross for me.
Steep 2: 3 minutes in boiling water
Tastes like composting fruit peels and mold. WHY? I’m guessing this tea was heavily fermented but has not been allowed to air out enough.
Steep 3: 4 minutes luke warm water as a last-ditch effort to see if I could drink this at all. Nope, I’ve had to dumpout all four cups.
I will not be trying this again as a western brew, but will allow it to air out for a few weeks and will then try it gongfu style with shorter steeps. Hopefully that tastes better, because this has been the worst tea I’ve ever tried thus far. I’m thinking it is my batch rather than the tea itself, but it tastes like it is made out of mold and decaying compost.
Flavors: Broth, Compost, Decayed wood, Dirt, Mineral, Mushrooms, Musty, Wet wood
I had this one saved from the #OolongTimeAgo aged tea buy, as i’m a fan of Dongfang Meiren/Oriental Beauty, and this one is a year older than I actually am, so I’ve been very interested to know how it tastes :)
Decided to go gongfu with this one & glad I did. The aroma from the gaiwan was old stored sheng & leafy piles of sticks & medicinal notes & forest floor/earth.
The taste was very aged, like an old sheng but less fruity and more woody. It seems to have been stored very well (although I dont actually know how the storage would affect an OB, i’m just going by sheng) & I really digged the mellow complexity of it. I was tasting different things in there but unfortunately they were covered over by this aged taste which was the most prominent over the 10 steeps or so I gave this tea.
Cha Qi was nice, didnt get any jitters and felt calmed.
I was searching for any spicy or honey notes, for some reason I thought they might get somehow pronounced like the stonefruit in pu but Dongfang Meiren doesnt have that sour fruitiness in the first place that enables the changes over time. There was an interesting aftertaste which at times was almost fruity but mostly it was aged woody notes.
An interesting tea for sure, glad to have experienced it! Thanks to LP for organising things as he always does, and thanks to TeaExplorer for joining with me to be able to gift this one to the group :)
Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Medicinal, Wet Earth, Wood
From 2016 Dark Matter:
Brewed this western style. The color of this was an amazing mahogany. The tea itself was rich and well rounded. There was a hint of chocolate and just a bit of astringency, the good “brisk” kind. I resteeped it twice with good results.
2016 Sheng Olympics
Are Dexter and I the only ones to try this tea yet? It looks like it.
I picked this tea yesterday because it was a silver needle puerh. I love the white tea pureh cakes. I didn’t see the age of the tea right away… Then I smelled the dry and it smelled faintly of that darned cow dung again. I figured “oh well, it’s pretty faint this time. Give it a chance.”
I gave it 3 rinses just to be sure and did a quick infusion after that. What a surprise! It was like floral fruit. I know that really doesn’t make sense but I kept thinking floral even though I wasn’t getting a floral aroma. We think of floral as a scent and fruit as a taste. At least I do but this was just like floral fruit to me. Next couple of infusions were the same. I took a break from the tea drinking and went back to it later. Somehow it wasn’t quite the same after sitting even though I did a quick rinse.
This was a pretty amazing tea and if I didn’t have too much tea already, I would buy a cake.
Flavors: Floral, Fruity
You know a reference I need in my collection? A guide to glazes. I have a wonderful book on symbolism used in Chinese art, many books on tea, but no real references on pottery and the styles used in teaware. I have checked the library’s books on pottery and porcelain and not had much luck, so I need to dig elsewhere. I want to know what makes Ruyao and Geyao different, how long ago was Junyao developed, and what exactly is Huoci? I love the aesthetic of teaware, but what really gets me excited with it (and pretty much everything) is its history and story, even a brand new piece has a history and I want to know it!
Guys, I feel really bad today, so I am going to use this as an excuse to indulge in one of my favorite ways to drink tea when I feel ookie, and that is oolong grandpa/bowl style. Back around my birthday I ordered some tea from J-Tea International and with my order was a sample of Lucky Golden Lily, and it might be well known, I really like drinking Jin Xuan in this style. It is soothing to just take a bowl and toss the leaves in it and fill it with water, not only is it immensely convenient, it is also aesthetically pleasing because you get to watch the leaves unfold while you are drinking. The aroma of the curled green leaves is what you expect from a Jin Xuan, it is buttery and sweet with notes of cashews, cream, sesame seeds, honey, and of course slightly spicy lilies and honeysuckles. It manages to be sweet without being too sweet.
The aroma of the leafy pile and soup is very sweet, creamy and floral with nutty tones, sesame and cashews being the dominant nutty notes with lily and honeysuckles being the dominant floral. There is a slight green undertone, like butterhead lettuce, which is my favorite lettuce if you were curious on that little snippet. In classic Jin Xuan style it starts out sweet, wonderful notes of honey drizzled cashews and sesame, with a hint of chestnuts which gives a bit of extra thickness to the buttery texture. It has notes of flowers as well, though it is light when compared to some of the more flowery oolongs, with gentle notes of spicy Asiatic lilies and honeysuckles and an undertone of hyacinth.
The more the leaves steep and unfurl and the more my bowl is refilled, the more the buttery to the point of being savory notes pop up. I love this about Jin Xuan, it is not savory like eating cooked spinach, and it certainly is not salty as in someone salted my tea, no it is savory like butter and mineral like I just licked a piece of limestone. There is a touch of salinity to it, since most rocks are ever so slightly salty (word of advice, don’t lick rocks unless you know what it is, as some are rather toxic, especially when wet) but it is more mineral than salt. It is not just mineral and buttery, there are flowery notes but by the late game it is faded, mostly gentle ghostly flowery notes remain, the nutty notes mostly faded as well.
The dry leaf smelled citrusy to me, but once the hot water hit it a strong chocolatey aroma hit me in the face. As I continue to steep it has gotten fruitier. Later still I’m getting something that smells like pumpkin pie. I think a sort of nutmeg/cinammon taste. I’ve never encountered that in a tea before.
Sipdown. I wish Whiteantlers was still around. Need to send her a giant thank you letter and some samples of good tea.
I also owe Luckyme some, but I’m not sure if I have stuff he would like save maybe the Mandala Milk.
Anyway, I like this tea a lot. It’s like a black version of the Red Buffalo with added complexity. Sweet, stone-fruity, creamy texture, and with that allusive cocoa roasted note. If only this tea weren’t so expensive…though I get expensive oolongs anyway. Hypocrite=me-ith.
Glad to finish this off, but I’m not super sad this is gone. Something great every now and then, but not something often or for ritual. Just something for this morning.
Whiteantlers, this one is yummy.
First off, it smelled like a Laoshan Black. Water at 212 throughout. Serving four ounces throughout.
First 15 Second steep was like a Laoshan Black.
Steep 2 at 35 seconds was a lot more like an oolong. Similar to What-Cha’s Vietnam Buffalo Oolong. It had the ripe fruit quality that Dan Congs or Dong Dings can have with a black tea background. The black tea was strong for the bare small teaspoon I used. I actually thought of things like caramel and oatmeal when drinking it.
Steep 3 at lord knows how long in minutes and it was lighter. Still noticeably a black tea, but more like a Dong Ding or Dan Cong.
I agree with Liquid Proust. A very complex black tea. I could barely get more out of this next cup, but a little bit of fruitiness remains with a really, really light body. It is a tea that I would keep a small quantity of to savor. I highly recommend a try, but the price still deters me from keeping it. I might introduce it to someone trying straight black teas Gong Fu, but it depends on the person for this tea to be a selling point. But it is a really great addition to Dark Matter 2016. And one of the teas I wanted to try from this group buy. Again, thank you Whiteantlers for your continued generosity, and Andrew for letting people gain more access to this tea.